Koksijde or Duinencross is arguably the most famous cyclocross race in the world. It is a monument of the sport that every top rider dreams of winning. The event started in 1969, with Roger De Vlaeminck, the four-time winner of Paris-Roubaix, the first winner. Koksijde has hosted the Cyclocross World Championship race twice.
The 2015 Koksijde World Cup race was destined to be a classic from the moment Sven Nys crossed the finish line first at the Soudal Classics GP Hasselt race, the day before. After struggling throughout the season and becoming visibly frustrated during races, the return of Sven to the top step added a whole new dimension to the Koksijde race. That he was trying to win his 50th World Cup race, at the age of 39, at Duinencross where he had won six previous times meant expectations were sky high.
But to give the throngs of fans who showed up to watch Sven compete what they wanted, the "people's champ" as Sporza Michel Wuyts calls him, would have to figure out how to beat the two dominant riders in the sport. First and foremost is Wout van Aert who is unarguably the class of the 2015-2016 cyclocross season. Van Aert has raced 18 times this season and won 13. The other five races? He came in second. Van Aert is also last year's winner at Koksijde. As if that wasn't enough competition, Koksijde would also be the first race of the season for Mathieu van der Poel, the current World Champion. Before van Aert's dominant run, it was Mathieu and Wout going head to head in virtually every race, the last half of the 2014-2015 season.
SVENNESS 4.2 covers the Koksijde World Cup race. Sand and mud, power and momentum. Those are the keys to this race and to victory. Will Wout continue his dominance? Will Mathieu return to the scene triumphantly? Will Sven get his 50th? Or will there be a spoiler from the field of other favorites like Lars van der Haar or Kevin Pauwels?
One way to find out ...
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For SVENNESS 4.1 we visit Ronse, Belgium, for the GP Mario De Clerq, which is the first stop in the BPost Bank Trofee Series. The Ronse track is remarkable for its steep power climbs; fast, tricky descents; and tough run up.
Sven Nys won the race the two previous years and was looking at this race as one that he could win. It's a tough concept to wrap your head around, that Sven has to pick and choose the races he thinks he can win, rather than just show up and dominate. Grappling with that concept is the main themes of this episode. We spend some time looking at off-camber sections and power climbs, but for the most part, this is a story as old as time. Actually, the story is time. And how it doesn't stop.
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For LIKEAVOS 2.5 we head to the fifth round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Heusden-Zolder. Marianne Vos, in her second race of the season, looks to seek revenge against a motivated Katerina Nash who beat her less than a week before in NAMUR (See LIKEAVOS 2.4). Pauline Ferrand Prévot, Sanne Cant, Eva Lechner are also looking to hone their form as the World Championship grows closer. The Zolder course takes place on the grounds of the former F1 racing circuit. It is also the home of the 2016 World Championships. Zolder is a power course with some steep climbs and white-knuckle descents thrown in for good measure. This race is amongst the best of the year for a women's field that is producing exciting racing week after week.
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For episode 3.10, we head to Erpe-Mere for the Belgian National Championship race. The hilly, muddy track is one of the most challenging we have seen all season. This race pits Belgian stalwarts like Sven, Kevin, Klaas and Tom against the growing youth movement of Wout van Aert, Time Merlier and Michael Vanthourenthout. The battle of the generations did not disappoint. For this episode we really don't spend a lot of time on technique and just give you the run down of how the action played out. The many lead changes, the inopportune mechanicals, the surges, the controversies and the crowning of this year's Belgian National Champion.
This episode is brought to you by our friends at CrossVegas, the first World Cup race of the 2015-2016 cyclocross season! Congratulations to CrossVegas for bring World Cup cyclocross to the United States. Keep up on all the details at crossvegas.com.
For LIKEAVOS episode 2.4 we are at the fourth stop on the Cyclocross World Cup Series in Namur, Belgium. The course takes place around the town's ancient citadel. The hilly track has demanding climbs and steep descents. Although the mud wasn't as bad as years' past, slick conditions still played a part in the outcome as riders struggled to get traction either riding or running on the long off-camber section.
We concentrate on the fastest way across the off-camber and take a look at descending, but mainly this episode concentrates on the return of Marianne Vos to cyclocross and her immediate impact on the race. It also features a relative surprise performance by a racer who isn't seen much anymore on the international scene.
As always, this episode is brought to you by Skills Drills and Bellyaches: A Cyclocross Primer, available at cyclocrossbook.com. Please also check out the shop (crosshairscycling.com/shop) for SVENNESS shirts and socks, Rosie the Riveter and Lloyd Dobler cycling shirts, and other fun things.
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